Zhu takes bee title

Published 12:27 pm Sunday, March 16, 2008

By Staff
Second time in three years for young champ
Staff Writer
Mayee Zhu didn’t “succumb” to the pressures of competitive orthography on Saturday. By spelling that word correctly, the 12-year-old from Hope Middle School in Greenville clinched first place in the 16th Annual Downeast North Carolina Regional Spelling Bee. It was her second victory at the bee, held annually at Washington High School, in three years.
Zhu out-spelled 47 other competitors in nine rounds Saturday. The sixth round proved “perilous” for third-place finisher Rachel Baker of Williamston Middle School. She spelled that word incorrectly.
Holly Street, a student at Chocowinity Middle School was able to “accelerate” into the final round, survived a “conspiracy,” but was unable to correctly spell the word “malleable.” She finished second.
Zhu became interested in spelling when her sister started spelling competitively in second grade, she said. She started by practicing for 30 minutes a day. To prepare for competition now, she pores over spelling-word lists and etymology for three hours each day.
For her effort, Zhu won an expense-paid trip for her and a chaperone to the 81st-Annual National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. to be held May 26-June 1, where Zhu will compete. . She also won a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, valued at $100, a $100 U.S. Savings Bond, a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online, a $20 Amazon.com gift certificate, a $30 Wal-mart gift certificate and the 1st-place trophy from PCS Phosphate and the Washington Daily News.
Zhu’s father, Yong, beamed with pride not at his daughter’s rewards, but at her accomplishment.
But, Zu didn’t know until about a week before the competition whether she would be allowed to compete, her father said. A change in her schools talented-and-gifted-children’s teacher caused her to miss the enrollment deadline. When Anne Roth took over that position in January, the December deadline had already passed.
Roth said she would accompany Zhu to Washington, D.C., “no matter what,” expecting the young girl would choose her father as her chaperone.